Lifelong dancing requires lifelong learning?

This post Creating Life Long Dancers and/or Better Dancers by Apache caught my eye, particularly the comments by Alex Zorach.

I can easily imagine myself dropping out of the Lindy scene within the next year or so. There are many reasons but one of the big ones is that there is not a lot more I can easily learn in my scene. Note the emphasis on easily.

Alex’s comments really resonated with me:

One reason I have withdrawn a bit from my local dance scene is that I don’t like the intensity of the more advanced lessons. I live in Philadelphia where there are ample opportunities for more advanced lessons.

But I find that these lessons are too intense for me. When I became more experienced as a dancer, I did not become any better or faster at learning things. I still like to learn slowly. And I didn’t become any less interested in social dance for meeting people and being social and having fun.

I feel like a lot of advanced lessons are run like drills, run like teaching people to perform. The pace is faster and there is less down time. And I hate this.

I have plenty to learn and there are classes and workshops I could go to but as a social dancer for whom dancing is a hobby and not an obsession I simply don’t fit into those classes.

Advanced classes tend to be full of people who are obsessed by Lindy Hop, who are/want to be teachers, performers or competitors, people who pick things up very quickly, people who go home and endlessly practice, etc. The pace of the classes is usually pretty quick and there is pressure to perform and get things right almost immediately from both students and teachers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, advanced classes are supposed to be advanced and all that.

However, what about those of us who aren’t natural dancers and take a bit longer to pick things up? Or those of us with stressful jobs who have no desire to add to this stress during our free time? Or those of who feel that 2-3 hours of new material is more than enough and find weekend workshops overwhelming?

If we’re talking mainstream education, we’re the people who were in Set B for maths. We might have ended up with the same grades as the people in Set A but we needed to go at a slower pace and do a lot more worked examples that our classmates in the A Set who instantly got the material. There’s not a lot of Set B style teaching going on out there but there are a fair few people who have the desire to carry on learning and improving their dance skills but can’t find a suitable class.

Whilst I don’t entirely agree with Rebecca’s post on The Hidden Reason We Become Lindy Hoppers [challenge] I do think that without the opportunity to carry on learning many of us Set B types end up drifting away from the Lindy scene (and in London at least, seem to end up doing Tango). After 5+ years of classes and workshops there isn’t really anywhere to go to learn more if you’re not up for advanced classes and all that goes with them.*

* Of course there are plenty of other ways to develop your dancing but if you’re not an obsessive Lindy Hopper and you’ve still got friends in the real world then your are more likely to be doing ‘normal’ stuff rather than working on your solo jazz moves in front of a mirror!

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5 responses to “Lifelong dancing requires lifelong learning?”

  1. superheidi says :

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m far from that level, but yes, you make a good point. Most ordinary souls are learning at a normal pace and are mainly dancing socially. It is probably the largest group. It’s a very loyal audience. Even from a busniness point of view, there should be more focus on this group.

  2. Apache says :

    I’m curious if the pace of your advanced classes in London being at a rigorous pace is a result of your location. At least in my area in California I have the opposite problems that the classes go at a leisurely pace and in result all the advanced dancers of the area work with each other or competition partners instead of shelling out money for classes.

    I guess Herräng will be an eye opener for myself how the pace of classes are in Europe.

    • sleepingglitter says :

      Apologies for the delay in responding.

      Yes, I think this is location specific. London advanced classes cover a multitude of levels. From the LSDS where 30 weeks of lessons makes you an advanced dancer to occasional Balboa classes/workshops where most people will be competing at an International/European level. I can’t think of any regular advanced classes available in London that aren’t tried to performance groups (any many would argue those groups don’t qualify as intermediate let alone advanced).

      However, I’m not really thinking of these types of advanced classes. I’m thinking of the one off advanced classes/smaller weekend workshops which are often set up by groups of friends (and so effectively invitation only) who try to get hold of international instructors when they are travelling through London. In my limited experience these classes move very quickly which is unsurprising given the nature of the students who organize them.

      Classes are a huge part of the London scene. Most social nights start with a class usually 2 classes. There will be the traditional beginner drop class but there’s usually an intermediate class. The definition of intermediate varies between instructors – for most you need to know swingout, lindy turn and lindy circle. Things have changed a bit now but for Bal Friday’s intermediate class general feeling was that a lead needed 2 years of beginner class/social dancing to be comfortable in the intermediate class.

      After 3 or 4 years most people grow out these classes and then as your average social dancer options for classes are limited. There’s no competition scene and jam circles are very rare so although couples do work together there’s no real incentive to work on the performance side of the dance.

      Have fun in Herrnag, I’ve never been but I think you will find the pace of general classes much the same as elsewhere and very dependent on the instructors.

  3. dogpossum says :

    I’m the sloooowest learner of all learners in all of learningdom. It takes me three million years to learn things. But when I’ve learnt it, it stays stuck. Unless it’s a routine, then it’s gone almost immediately.

    I tend to do quite badly in larger classes at higher levels, even when I’m put there in those audition things. I don’t cope well with having to rotate partners quickly (rather than getting a chance to work through something with one partner), and I get really down on myself for not picking things up immediately, and that’s a real impediment to learning. I try not to be a poo, though.

    I have often chosen to do the intermediate or next-level-down-from-advanced because they cover interesting topics and have a slower pace. But I do find the concepts are often not quite as complex as I’d like. If it’s a solo class, I’m quite happy to be in that bottom 5%. I still learn stuff.

    So my solution has been:
    – Do these big workshop things to the best of my ability. I make sure I’m not too badly outpaced (because I do NOT want to stuff things up for the other students), and am doing a bit better than the bottom 10% at least.

    – I try to then get together with other peeps who went to the workshop (or with other peeps) and then go over the material in depth so I can figure out how they worked.

    – I prefer workshops that are based on ‘concepts’ rather than a routine or basic drilling. I find the better teachers structure their classes this way anyway, and I can usually pick the weaker teachers and avoid them. I cope better with workshops that _are_ workshops – where you experiment with concepts rather than rushing through move after move after move. I’m not interested in moves: teach me to fish, etc etc etc. Unless it’s solo jazz, and it’s historic material. Then I want moves.

    – I do private classes with visiting teachers I admire, and ask for concepts to work on (eg I’m currently fascinated by how I can vary my bounce/pulse from big and gooshy to tighter and higher, etc etc).

    – Being one of those people who organises small group classes with visiting teachers. I give the teachers the brief I want, and then it’s total gold for me.

    – And I’ve always had to do more work to keep up with everyone else. For every hour my solo group might do on a routine, I usually do at least 2 extra hours to keep up. I don’t mind because I have time, but it really helps me keep up. To be honest, though, I’m recently finding little 30 minute practices every day more useful. Or little ten minutes blocks where I work on one particular break step.

    At the end of the day, though, I think it’s totally ok to just dance socially and be ok with not being Amazing Rockstar Dancer of Best. It’s totally ok to just enjoy having basic skills and the company of other folk on the dance floor.

  4. LadyD says :

    Just stumbled upon your blog. I have yet to get to any workshop…but then I’ve only been learning since february. So I don’t think I’m up to ‘advanced’ standard yet.
    I’m used to with other hobbies teaching myself in the main with the odd workshop. So its been a new experience having regular lessons. I’m so used to motivating myself when it comes to learning I do erm…practice in the mirror and take every opportunity to get film of me dancing with a partner so I can watch it back and critique myself.
    I stumbled into the scene by accident…and rather enjoy it. Always end up with a big grin on my face when I dance.

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